NJ Tourism on the Up-and-Up; Brings $4.87 Billion to County

File photo by Ryan Morrill.

Trenton — A record 111 million visitors pitched in to boost tourism to a $44.7 billion industry in New Jersey that generated $5 billion in state and local taxes. New Jersey visitation surged 7.4 percent last year, and visitor spending rose 4.5 percent, an almost $2 billion increase.

Every year at this time the numbers are announced, and revenue-wise, they don’t disappoint. Research done for the N.J. Division of Travel and Tourism found that 2018 marked the ninth straight year visitor spending increased, growing more than 30 percent since 2009.

The numbers come from The Economic Impact of Tourism in New Jersey Report tallying 2018. The research was done by Tourism Economics, a company of Oxford Economics, a joint venture with Oxford University’s business college.

Gov. Phil Murphy and Secretary of State Tahesha Way joined members of the New Jersey Tourism Industry Association on May 9 to announce the numbers to the industry and the press.

One fact at the bottom of Murphy’s press release would probably surprise shore-goers: “non-shore counties continued to diversify our tourism spending streams, generating 52 percent of visitor spending.”

But to 8.69 million people last year, there’s still no place cooler than the beach. In Ocean County, the past-year’s popularity was on the upswing.

Lori Pepenella, chief executive officer of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, was there in Trenton when the figures were released at a meeting of the New Jersey Tourism Industry Association.

The research “shows Ocean County was up 3.4 percent, about 8.7 million visitors, which provides upwards of 14 percent of employment within the county,” she reported.

It wasn’t a stellar summer weather-wise, or revenue figures would have been even better. One spending summary in the report blamed rain for the shore areas as a whole “underperforming” where visitor spending was concerned.

Looking in detail at the report, it showed that direct sales from tourism was up .2 percent in Ocean County, from $4.77 billion in 2017 to $4.78 billion last year. But state and local tax receipts, at $459 million, represented a .3 percent drop.

Broken down into what the money was spent on, tourism direct sales in Ocean County in 2018 were: lodging, $1.4 billion; food and beverage, $1.2 billion; retail, $979 million; recreation; $638 million; transportation, $532 million; second home sales, $1.26 billion.

‘Strong Economy’ Boosts Forecast

NJ.com reported that “a strong economy, low unemployment, and diverse offerings” should make 2019 a good summer for the Jersey Shore, according to a panel of experts at Stockton University’s Atlantic City Boardwalk Academic Center.

Economic conditions were also cited by Tourism Economics’ in its positive forecast for 2019.

“We expect visitation growth to continue to be positive in 2019, for a combination of reasons: • Continued wage gains in the US in 2019 • Consumer confidence remains solid • Uptick in vacation intentions in early 2019,” the report stated.

“These strengths will be tempered by a maturing labor market and a slowing of economic growth as the governmental stimulus of 2018 loses steam.”

A surge in visitor spending in Atlantic County was credited with a chunk of the state’s 7.4 percent spending increase in 2018.

“Two new casinos opening in June, adding 33% to room inventory and seeing room rental increases of 20% in Q3 (first full quarter of operations) provided Atlantic County with a boost to visitor spending,” stated the Tourism Economics report.

It added, “Other Shore areas under-performed as a hot, rainy summer did not provide a strong visitor spending boost.”

“Weather was reported as affecting the overall season across the state,” Pepenella commented after the meeting.

The Tourism Economics forecast for 2019 agreed. “As always, the key wildcard is the weather. An ill-timed hurricane or even a poor weekend forecast can have an effect on travel to New Jersey.”

As the seventh-largest industry in the state, tourism employs approximately 530,000 people.

Gov. Murphy has a goal of 150 million visitors by 2023. He looks toward a new focus on international travelers, the American Dream mega-mall at the Meadowlands, and Atlantic City’s rebound.

“In the years to come and as this critical industry continues to grow, I look forward to joining families from around the world in enjoying what New Jersey has to offer, supporting the businesses and communities that make our state special,” Murphy said.

— Maria Scandale

Reposted from The Sandpaper